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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Reality is really unreal

Image of an anti-matter dark star.

Dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes.
Reason tatters, the forces tear loose from the axis.
Searchlight casting for faults in the clouds of delusion.
Shall we go, you and I while we can
Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds?

I am not a big fan of the Grateful Dead, but I do love their song Dark Star.

I thought of it when thinking of a link to go with the Ego Tunnel book (see below). I am know wondering how the 'internally generated' reality as explored by Thomas Metzinger connects with the quantum information theory of reality as explored by Vlatko Vedral in his book - Decoding Reality.

What Metzinger says is that the reality we experience is a simulation or representation created by brain activity - which at the same time creates the 'virtual self' which experiences the simulation/ representation as 'real'. The simulation/ representation of reality is connected to real reality. If it was not, our ancestors would not have survived and we would be extinct.

But then Vlatko Vedral comes along and argues that real reality is based on information - that matter/ energy arise from information and that information can emerge out of nothing/ no information.

So what you get is a double dissolution of reality - from inside and outside. And now I am slowly reading The Opening of Hegel's Logic which may or may not be helpful.By helpful, I mean that Hegel may have anticipated both Vedral and Metzinger (or rather the science/ philosophy they represent) - and did so before the reality changing impact of industrial capitalism.

As I have tried to express in 'Evoking Maxwell's demon' (see previous posts)we now know that industrial capitalism did not just create the social reality we imagine ourselves as inhabiting, it also changed physical reality - leading to global climate change. Cross-connecting, the result is a multiple crisis.

There is the economic crisis (the debt/banking/finance crisis), the ecological/ climate change crisis, the psychic crisis of the self as a myth and a 'cosmic' crisis where the universe becomes a stream of quantum information... but are the crises related? If so, how?

Well, without low entropy energy from coal and oil, the industrial revolution could not have happened and industrial capitalism could not have developed. So there would have been no global warming. At the same time, industrial capitalism and the industrial revolution stimulated the development of science, technology and knowledge. Without those developments, neither Metzinger nor Vedral's theories/ speculations would have the support of experimental evidence. Furthermore, to the extent that their work is part of science it has a greater weight than it would otherwise.

Yet, as both admit, the implications of their work challenges our understandings of ourselves and our world - calls into question our conceptions of 'reality'. In contrast to their edge-of-science work, the science of climate change is mainstream and can be traced back to the early industrial era emergence of thermodynamics, chemistry and physics. Yet the implications of climate change are vigorously denied by a vocal minority since any attempt to mitigate climate change would have direct economic implications. The no-growth economy implied would spell the end for industrial capitalism. The end of a powerful version of reality.

If Metizinger or Vedral's science ever challenged the economic basis of taken-for-granted reality no doubt they would face similar attempts at denial. Ultimately such denial is the denial of scientific rationality -and the reality it describes. But if 'reality' is in some way a construct, a representation or virtual simulation of the universe, maybe the deniers have a point? In the context of climate change, no they don't. They have no coherent alternative hypothesis for the rise in global temperature. Their alternatives are not rational.

What is really real is rational. What is really rational is real. A Hegel misquotation which allows me to suggest that perhaps science has advanced knowledge to the point where our rationality is creative rather than reflective. That our descriptions of the world have become so fine grained that reason has passed through the 'ego tunnel' into the world as it is - changing it so much that it is feeding back into our virtual model of reality... creating the multiple crisis we are now beginning to experience.


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